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Academics visit University of Virginia in Charlottesville to explore contested uses of the past

Two academics from Queen's School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics recently visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to explore contested uses of the past.

During their visit, Dr Olwen Purdue and Dr Dominic Bryan met with students, faculty members and community mediators to talk about the challenges facing those who are trying to deal with contested representations of the past in divided societies.

In a series of lectures and workshops, they discussed the symbolic power of the past and how it is used in the public arena both in Northern Ireland and in the US, and explored some of the ways in which scholars, public bodies and public history institutions in each of the two contexts are seeking to tackle these deeply divisive issues.

Dr Olwen Purdue, Director of Internationalisation for the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics said that the visit to the University of Virginia had been extremely valuable.

"We met with some highly engaged students as well as faculty members from the university, and had the opportunity to discuss many issues relating to the uses and abuses of the past in the public sphere. Exploring issues of memorialisation and communal divisions in the contexts of Northern Ireland and the US provided much food for thought and we look forward to continuing and expanding these discussions."

Elaborating on the visit, Dr Bryan said:

"Over the last two years the University of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville have had to confront some very difficult issues around contested symbols and historical narratives. It was really enlightening to discuss contested identities in Northern Ireland and to analyse some possible solutions with groups of students. The contexts are of course different, but there were clear commonalities in possible solutions."